Technology has had a significant impact on every sphere of our lives and more so in the last two years. The pandemic has changed the way people think, consume technology, and function on a personal and professional level. Customers have always had high expectations when visiting a restaurant. But with new technologies such as online ordering, self-ordering kiosks, contactless payments, digital menus, and a myriad of other such options, their perspective and expectations when they visit a restaurant have been completely altered.
Industries across the board are shifting to a tech-enabled work environment and the restaurant industry is no different. And why not? Restaurants and the food industry have gained a myriad of benefits by shifting to a digital working model. Restaurants have faced unprecedented attrition over the last two years. As a result, restaurant owners struggled with an acute manpower shortage. Technology helps restaurants reduce costs, the number of employees required to service guests, and increase performance, revenue, and profits.
One technology in particular that proved to be quite helpful for fast-food chains was self-ordering kiosks. Food giants like McDonald’s had already installed self-ordering kiosks long before the pandemic struck. However, small businesses too have realized the many benefits of adopting technology and are now embracing it with open arms. Before we delve into the many benefits of using a self-ordering kiosk, let's first understand this term.
What is a self-ordering kiosk?
Self-ordering kiosks are self-service machines enabling customers to place their food orders directly at a touchscreen kiosk without any interaction with restaurant staff. It also allows customers to customize orders and make payments, and even gives a printed receipt. The reason they have gained popularity among fast-food chains is because they can deploy them in several locations and in different forms. The classic self-ordering kiosk is a free-standing physical structure. It displays the entire menu for the customers and enables them to place an order directly at the POS without the intervention of the cashier or server. Some self-order kiosks also display prompts with different promotions or menu modifiers resulting in high order values. Though these machines have garnered immense popularity among quick-service restaurants, fast food places, and casual dining, other restaurants are fast-catching up on the trend.
Benefits of self-ordering kiosks
· Less waiting time and human interaction: Social distancing and limited human contact have become the top-priority for people over the last two years. Even before that, long lines at restaurants and food courts to place an order led to irate customers, more so during peak business hours. A self-ordering kiosk eliminates human interaction, significantly cuts down the ordering time, is easy to navigate, user-friendly, and lets customers personalize their orders. It helps save time and makes customers feel more safe as there is no human interaction involved.
· Optimum utilization of staff: Self-ordering kiosks help automate the order placing process and free up their staff from this repetitive task. In times where the restaurant industry is going through an acute manpower crisis, installing a kiosk enables restaurants to deploy more manpower in the kitchen, service, and packaging teams, enabling them to flip-out more orders. These kiosks help restaurants increase sales and profit, and keep manpower costs under control.
· Accurate orders and deliveries: It’s only human to miss out on a special request or mistakenly take the wrong order during rush hour in the old-school way. However, when it comes to self-ordering kiosks, customers place the order themselves and at their own pace. It also gives customers an option to customize their orders if a restaurant has custom menus. Self-order kiosks thus facilitate accurate orders every time, translating to accurate deliveries and happy customers.
· Drives targeted upselling: All restaurants have items on their menu which yield more profits. French-fries in fast-food chains is one such example. You obviously want it to sell with most of your orders. Install a self-ordering kiosk and do targeted upselling without being pushy. With a self-service food ordering system, you can display multiple messages based on customers’ purchase behaviour, and drool worthy pictures of food items coupled with a mouth-watering description nudge the customer to order. The beautiful image and an enticing food description on kiosks tempt customers into buying more profitable items.
· Improves Customer Satisfaction: Fast-food chains and QSRs are the go-to for office goers, college students, and almost everyone else for grabbing their morning coffee and a quick bite in the morning rush hour. Every minute counts. Imagine the frustration and irritation of having to wait for a long time to just place an order. The frustration translates to dissatisfied customers, a bad reputation, and eventually less footfall and less business. A self-ordering kiosk lets people place their orders swiftly during busy hours, reduces wait time, provides a full-menu, provides the customers with adequate information about the food, and offers an option to make a payment via cash or secure card-based payments. All of this ensures a happy and satisfied customer.
Rising popularity of self-ordering kiosks
Big fast-food chains and quick service restaurants like Chili’s and McDonald’s had already added self-ordering kiosks at various locations long before Covid-19 and experienced umpteen benefits. McDonald’s reported an average of a 5% to 6% increase in its sales after installing these kiosks, and Chili’s reported a 20% increase in dessert sales after installing kiosks. Why? Kiosks are designed to deliver a fast and more personalized ordering experience, something which customers demand these days. The pandemic further familiarizes customers with the ease and speed of online ordering. As a result, customers now want more control and similar personalization when they visit a restaurant in person.
Research shows that a whopping 65% of customers would re-visit a restaurant if self-service kiosks were offered and 30% prefer to order from a self-ordering kiosk instead of the ordering counter. Covid-19 has further fuelled the popularity of self-ordering kiosks both among customers and restaurant owners. It allows customers to build their meals, place their orders, and even pay for their food without interacting (think socially-distantly) with restaurant staff. Many restaurants in New York used a combination of kiosks and QR codes to minimize any face-to-face contact at the height of the pandemic. Many restaurants set-up tablet-based kiosks outdoors or on restaurant windows to avoid unnecessary contact.
Are you planning to invest in a self-service kiosk for your restaurant? Do look for the following features:
· Option to build a visually-appealing menu (option to add pictures, detailed descriptions, easy to navigate menu options).
· A software which enables you to add upsell menu prompts and menu modifiers.
· Integrated customer loyalty solutions (customer data gets saved when they order for the first time for future orders and promotional offers).
· Option to send customer notifications via WhatsApp or SMS on the order status.
· Payment gateway allows payment using different payment methods.
There is no denying the fact that self-ordering kiosks require a substantial one-time investment. However, the benefits and long-term cost effectiveness far outweigh the one-time costs. The rising popularity of these kiosks is testimony to the fact that the investment is worth every penny.